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Learn about measles, who is at risk, and how it spreads.
Health professionals and AHS staff: Visit Measles Information for Health Professionals for more information.

About measles


Measles is extremely contagious and spreads easily through the air. The best protection against measles is to ensure you are up to date with your immunizations.

Measles cases are increasing globally, with numerous countries and travel destinations reporting outbreaks including the United States and Europe. Cases have been identified recently in several Canadian provinces.

Health Advisory - April 24, 2024

Measles is a virus that spreads easily through the air when someone who has measles coughs or sneezes. Measles is sometimes called rubeola or red measles.

It can cause:

  • a high fever
  • a cough
  • a runny nose
  • red eyes
  • a blotchy, red rash that appears 3 to 7 days after the fever starts, beginning behind the ears and on the face and spreading down to the body and to the arms and legs

Measles can be dangerous because:

  • One in 10 people with measles will get middle ear or lung infections.
  • One in 1,000 people with measles will get encephalitis (swelling of the brain), which can lead to seizures, deafness, or brain damage.
  • One to three of every 1,000 people with measles will die.
  • In 1963, before widespread immunization, measles caused about 60,000 cases each year in Canada.

Learn more about measles or see frequently asked questions about measles.

Who is most at risk?

You are at risk of being in contact with measles if you travel outside of Canada or to areas within Canada where measles is spreading. There is currently measles spreading in certain parts of Canada. If you have not had measles in the past or if you have not been fully immunized against it and you come into contact with the virus, you are at risk of getting measles.

Measles tends to be more severe in babies and adults.

If you were born before 1970, there is a good chance you are immune to measles, as you were likely exposed to measles when it circulated widely before 1970.

How it spreads

Measles is an extremely contagious disease, spread easily through the air.

You do not need to be in direct contact with someone who is infected. You can get measles just by passing through a room or location where a person who is infected was up to 2 hours before. The person who is infected does not still need to be there to put you at risk of disease.

Measles can also be spread through coughing, sneezing, yelling, singing, and breathing.

If you have measles, you can spread the disease before you show any symptoms. Measles can spread starting 4 days before the rash appears until 4 days after the rash appears.

Current as of: July 1, 2024
Author: Provincial Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services
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